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The Guardian ipad edition

I've been waiting for the Guardian's ipad edition for some time. It has been pretty rigorously pre-tested because they know it had to be good enough to entice people to spend £10 a month on it rather than the minimal sum the iphone/ipad version costs, or spending nothing at all on the standard web site.

If you have an ipad 1 you first need to download Apple's latest operating system iOS5. This took about three hours from the itunes store with a slowish broadband connection. Then it took a little while for the Guardian download and a surprisingly long time (at least 10 minutes) for the Saturday edition of the ipad Guardian to download. I hope it was only this long because it was the first download, but we shall see. Updates on the iphone version are almost instantaneous. The paper is accessed from the ipad's home screen via an icon called "newstand", within which you could place other news sources.

So, I have it in front of me. From the front page, rich in colour and pictures, you can navigate either by a sliding tool bar to all sections of the paper or from the window panes to some of the sections: national, international, financial, in pictures, editorials, money and family and comment.  You can also access older editions of the paper from the "issues" button. The front page also features a large banner headline and picture. Today it's the Liam Fox story.

Once you've tapped a window to access another section, tapping a story brings up the article in full, in quite large Guardian-style font. Alternatively you can flick to one side to get the next page of the paper, so navigation can be by tap or swipe. Photography is always very prominent, taking advantage of the ipad's 9 inch screen. I'm a little surprised, however, than you cannot enlarge text with the two finger outward swipe, but the text is quite large, so I guess this won't be an issue. You cannot swipe from a specific written piece, you have to return to the main section page for this.

Some users have bemoaned the lack of comments after articles. I find this both retro and refreshing - it's amazing how many right-wing crazies seem to read Guardian articles online.

A dip into the sport section reveals a total of 34 ipad pages. The main sport page includes an annoying link to Channel 4's TV schedules and an invitation to dowload the 4oD app, but the this is because the Guardian ipad edition is sponsored by Channel 4. In a bar alongside each article there are links to articles on the Guardian's standard website which I find slightly curious. It's almost like an invitation not to subscribe to the ipad edition, but this may be one way of lightening the ipad edition to make download quicker. Within the sports pages there are also links in the sidebar to other sports articles on the app. There is plenty of coverage, including racing, rugby, football and comprehensive results.

It all works smoothly, looks very good with all the high quality photography and it is a world away from the functional iphone app. On the other hand, the iphone app does more audio and video, whereas this app is very much a digital newspaper, with the feel of a classy tabloid. The "in pictures" section is attractive; Saturdays' edition has 13 interesting photos.

So, the £10 question is: after the trial 70-odd editions have been viewed, do you fork out the subscription? I shall wait and see. £10 is still very good value when compared with the cost of the print version. Tablet newspapers are the future, I have no doubt, and if we want the Guardian to survive we shall have to pay for it, so, rather akin to the way we help keep our milkman in employment, I might be tempted to part with the cost of three or four pints for a good cause. This app looks great, is easy to use and really suits the ipad. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on those download times.

Postscript: downloads for Monday and Tuesday were slow, taking about 10 minutes. That's a pain.

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